Spring’s the time for some pet vaccinations

By Lisa Phelps
Posted 5/1/24

WHEATLAND – With warm weather upon us, soon snake season will rear its head - now’s the time to schedule appointments if you want to consider getting your dogs vaccinated with rattlesnake …

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Spring’s the time for some pet vaccinations


WHEATLAND – With warm weather upon us, soon snake season will rear its head - now’s the time to schedule appointments if you want to consider getting your dogs vaccinated with rattlesnake vaccine. The first year a vaccine is given, a one-month booster is recommended, then annually after that.

The vaccine stimulates the animal’s own antibodies to rattlesnake venom that helps protect in the event of a poisonous bite. The rattlesnake vaccine is species-specific, and the one available uses neutralized western diamondback rattlesnake venom, so it isn’t effective against all snake bites. Dr. Brenda Unrein from Laramie Peak Veterinary Associates in Wheatland said this is why it is a controversial topic among veterinarians.

As in all vaccines, there can be side-effects of the vaccine, but there have been dog-owners in the local area who attribute the vaccine to helping save their dog after being bitten. “I personally think it is a benefit to get a little more time to get the anti-venom,” she said.

A visit with your veterinarian is a good idea to see if it would be a benefit for you and your pets.

Wondering about anti-venom for your pet after a snakebite rather than a vaccine? It must be given soon after the bite, and it can be cost-prohibitive at upwards of a grand or more in cost; horses need three doses for their size.

About the only other option is taking prevention measures. Some pet owners find classes to train their dogs to avoid snakes.

Dr. Unrein said not all bites are fatal. “Sometimes there is no venom in the bite, or it was partially deflected, and sometimes the pet’s system is able to fight the poison.”

She added the first 45 minutes are critical, and you know by that point if there is a chance for your pet to survive.

“We see a large number of snakebites every year, with 20 or so animals treated with antivenom,” Unrein said.

Other vaccines recommended for pets include Rabies, Distemper and if you take your dog to a groomer, Kennel Cough vaccine is recommended. Kennel cough protects against an intranasal infection that can turn into pneumonia, Dr. Unrein said. Check with your veterinarian on the schedule of these vaccines for your pets. Canine influenza vaccine is available by request. Unrein says the canine ‘flu is present in Colorado pet populations, but it hasn’t been on the radar in our area. Lepto is a vaccine available for animals traveling out of the country, protecting from a bacteria that is able to pass from pets to humans. It is not commonly found in this area and is not part of the core vaccines.

Cats are recommended to have seasonal vaccines. The vaccines that are not season-specific are rabies, felocell (a respiratory virus), distemper, and in cats that go outside, feline leukemia because this virus is spread between animals outside.

Horses are recommended to have a five-way vaccine in their spring shots that include rabies, West Nile, East Equine Encephalitis, West Equine Encephalitis, and tetanus. Animals traveling to shows need to add Rhinovirus/flu vaccine for respiratory viruses. Equine owners may also consider strangles vaccine, which is recommended for show animals or young horses.

As far as de-worming, Dr. Unrein said there has been resistance to de-worming agents in some parasite populations. Current recommendations are to de-worm horses by fecal egg counts (400 – 500 eggs per gram). This time of year, bots (parasitic fly eggs) are at the stage to be concerned: sometimes they are not seen on fecal floats, and Dr. Unrein confirmed she is currently seeing them in horses. She said paste deworming is fine for owners to use on their horses. Any questions need to be referred to your veterinarian.